15 December 2006

Our Dirty South-Scandinavian-American Christmas Feast

Julia Child is my homegirl...
Finally I got a taste (and whiff) of the "Holiday Season", also known as December, Yule, Solstice, Chanukah, etc. There's not a flake of snow on the ground, it's not even all that cold, and we're not likely to have a white Christmas in New England this year. But go into people's houses, and you'll find all kinds of evidence of the season.

On Friday, I stopped by my friends Meg and Vincent's house and entered a virtual bakery. I cannot describe the joy of walking into a house and getting attacked by the smell of fresh baked cookies. Attack away. They were obviously baking cookies, a time honored tradition in many households this year. Mine is not one of them. As much as I love to cook, I find cookie baking tedious and boring. But I appreciate the smell of a kitchen in use.

Later that evening, Bea, Ingrid, Primo and I joined our friends Rachel and Steve and their kids for a Shabbas/Chanukah dinner of latkes (potato and sweet potato) and cabbage. Again, when we walked in the door, the smell of fried tubers welcomed us. I helped Rachel in the kitchen, ground zero for the aroma. I've never cooked a latke, but I am happy that Rachel has, and that she's good at it.

My time to give a feast to folks will come on Christmas Day, when I invite family and friends over for an African American/Scandinavian feast. Ah the joy of being in an multicultural/multiethnic family! You'd be surprised how well these two food traditions complement one another. I plan the menu feast weeks in advance. I reserve the goose, ask those who will make the specialties to get ready, search for new recipes if I need, plot, dream, fantasize about the feast.

Cooking all day for 17 people is a small price to pay to let my kids wake up in their own house on Christmas Day, something that I never did until I was in my teens. When I lived in New Jersey, we always went to Tennessee and I woke up in my maternal grandparents' house in Memphis on the 25th. When we bought our house, I decided that my kids would always always wake up in their own house on Christmas Day, and people would just have to come to us.

The cookies and the latkes prompted me to begin preparing for the feast, and for the arrival of my parents. First task: clean the refrigerator. I write this on break from that joyous job. I've already filled the compost bucket once with moldy mystery sauces and long lost leftovers. Our fridge used to look full. Now it's surprisingly empty. Cleaning the goose, which entails putting my hand up in the body to get the gizzards and neck, then picking stray feather for an hour is preferable to cleaning the fridge. Oh well. I do it for the kids...

The cooking will begin on the 21st, as I'm attempting to bake a Yule Log instead of a rum cake this year. I need time to regroup if I screw up. The centerpiece of the meal is the Christmas goose, a tradition that started when I was eight months pregnant. I was so in love with food that a good chunk of my midwife prenatal appointments involved my describing in mouthwatering detail, all the delicious food I was eating and planned to eat.
Here's what's on the menu (said in your best Julia Child falsetto):

Assorted cheese and hard bread
Smoked salmon
Pickled Herring

Main Course
Roast goose stuffed with apples and prunes
Wild rice stuffing with venison sausage
Friendship bread (oatmeal, sunflower seeds, flax meal, olive oil, wheat, and any other flour in the house, maybe a little rosemary)
Steamed green beans
Cranberry relish
Cranberry Sweet Potato quiche
Mother-in-law brings: Swedish ham
Mother cooks: baked macaroni and cheese.
Friends bring: Collard greens, salad.
Whatever my sisters and brother-in-law bring.

Mother cooks: Carrot cake, pecan pie
Parthenia cooks: Yule Log
I'm also going to have a couple ginger bread house kits for the kids to make to keep them occupied. We probably won't be permitted to eat them.

Father in law makes: Glögg
Primo goes to Ryan and Casey liquors and buys: red wine, mead, beer.

Yeah, the husband and my dad get off scot-free in the cooking department. This is a good thing. My father is a traditional southern man, who is a wonderful barbeque chef, and that's where his culinary skills end. Primo married a southern girl who could cook. He helps to clean (except the toilets, of course!) and keep the kids out of trouble.

A really bad poem about a Christmas Goose by William Topaz McGonagall

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